The writing has been all the wall for a while now with huge falling profits but HMV, the UK’s last major music (entertainment) store chain, has gone into administration. It’s a sad story for the many employees who work in chain which amounts to some 4000 staff. HMV opened its first store back in 1921 in Oxford Street, London, and the composer Edward Elgar took part in the opening ceremony. Fast forward to 1986 and they were opening the largest record store in the world on the same street only it was with Bob Geldof and Michael Hutchence.
Soon after the HMV flagship store opened I purchased Bob Dylan’s Biograph album on vinyl from there…I didn’t have a CD player then! But it wasn’t long after making that purchase that I first discovered a whole load of independent record shops where I began to discover music I’d never heard of before. I used to love spending a large amount of my cash (those were the days) in places like Colletts which although was more of a political bookshop had a great collection of world, folk and roots. I also used to visit Rays Jazz for many years while working in London (Ray Smith the founder sadly died in 2011) and Rough Trade also become a regular haunt as well. It was those stores that fed my thirst for musical discovery and helped lead to this station and website.
So where does all that leave us? Well I’m not going to be swilling the last dregs of my pint down the pub reminiscing about it…sure it’s kind of sad but the HMV that went was no longer the Record Store I remembered…it was also a far cry from the specialist music retailer it was back in the 1970s. It was an entertainment store that was filling a shrinking gap in the market that was being chewed up by supermarket chains…that was becoming clearer as they moved into other fields of entertainment.
The more specialist music that we crave and play on here can be found still in independent record shops across the country and those that diversified away from the mainstream music scene did well, in fact our local record shop in Taunton ‘Black Cat Records‘ recently moved to bigger premises and they have a great selection of music.
As Graham Jones points out in his book ‘Last Shop Standing (Whatever Happened to Record Shops)‘ it’s all far from Doom and Gloom, those independent stores that fed off the chart return machine many years ago got bitten, they thought the record companies would see them out nicely into retirement! Like HMV that gap in the market got saturated…the ones that survived are, as he puts it, the ‘crème de l crème’. They moved with the times and diversified in specialist fields to cater for the more discerning music buyer (I’m biased I know but that’s how I view our listeners), they wanted folk, jazz, blues and world music etc. They also imported CDs and often sold second hand stock now out of circulation.
And of course the other reason they’re still going? Customer service! People still purchase music based on their recommendations or what’s up on the wall…I often purchased albums without listening first…I trusted their judgement…they were taste makers in that sense as well.
There’s a great community spirit around these independent record stores and they have a very bright future…anyone that says otherwise is talking bullshit: